Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rumor is Worse than the Riot

Once again there is talk in Haiti.  Panic.  Tension in the air.  Things feel unstable and unsettled.

Aristide is rumored to be returning to Haiti tomorrow.  It seems to be confirmed that he left South Africa where he has been exiled for seven years.  Aaron just saw on Twitter that internet is being installed at Aristide's house in Haiti tomorrow.  That screams of an upcoming arrival if you ask me.

I won't even pretend to know the full story on Aristide's past deeds in this country.  Here's the basics:  He became President after Baby Doc was run out of Haiti.  He was loved by the Haitian people.  There was a lot of tension and political unrest in Haiti during his time in office.  People who lived here during the Aristide years have lots of interesting (scary) stories.  The US played some sort of role in removing Aristide from Haiti seven years ago.  He has been exiled, but a lot of people in Haiti still love him.  One article I read today said the people here equate Aristide's return to the return of Jesus. 

Now he's on his way back to Haiti.  Sunday is election day in this country.  During election time, it's always up in the air what will go down on this island.  Remember the first round of elections?  We posted lots of pictures of the riots.  We were safe behind our tall walls, but the city was shut down for several days.  So was the airport.  No flights in.  No flights out.

Soso (the lady who works for us) walked in the front door today, said her normal "hello" and then unloaded on me how worried (and irritated) she is about what could happen over the next few days.  "Aristide is coming."  She is afraid she won't be able to come to work.  She's scared for us.  She says there will be a lot of trouble.  A lot of people will act crazy.  She made sure we had plenty of food.  She was determined to get all our water containers filled.  The only other time I have seen Soso act this way was the day before the last riots started.  She usually laughs when I tell her the things I've heard.  "That's not true, Madame.  Don't worry.  Things will not get crazy."  Well, today she was singing a different tune.

A friend of mine who lives in Haiti called this morning and told me she was being evacuated.  She found out today that she's leaving today.

So it sounds like things might be nutty around here for awhile.  Except here's the deal...

Maybe things won't be nutty.  The point of this post isn't to warn anyone.  It's not even to inform anyone.  Never look to me for accurate news coverage.  Never do that.  The point of this post is to say this...

The weirdest part about living in Haiti is having absolutely no real, tangible idea what's going on here, or what is about to go on here.

Rumors.  The things I've heard today made me nervous.  I sent an email asking people to pray.  I was anxious.  There is a chance things here could be off-the-hook insane in the coming weeks.  As usual no one seems to know what to expect, but everyone agrees that Aristide's return is a big deal.  Some missions organizations are evacuating their people.  Some mission teams that were here for the week are changing plans and leaving on earlier flights.

We know that rumors cause fear.  If we left this country every time there was a rumor that something was about to happen, we'd never live here.  If I stayed home instead of going to Heartline every time someone told me school might be canceled or a riot could start, there would have been countless days I would have stayed home only to watch absolutely nothing happen that was predicted to happen.  But then again, if something actually did happen and we didn't listen, wouldn't we feel like idiots?

There.  That's what I'm trying to get at...the constant state of not knowing. Not being able to make informed decisions.

It all makes me freak out, pray, be reminded that God is in control, freak out some more, pray again.  You get the picture. 

This is life in Haiti.  I've decided that selfishly I'd almost prefer an all out riot on the other side of the wall over the constant tension and the rumor of riots.  The rumors.  They make it hard to decide whether parents should send their kids to school.  They make it difficult to know whether or not schools should cancel school.  They make it hard to know how to prepare.  Go buy food?  Stock up?  Stay home?  Go to Heartline?  If I go, and it's fine in the morning, will it be clear and safe on the ride home?  Do we have enough water?  What about diesel?  Are we being stupid?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  And then there's the disappointment in myself for really worrying at all about this.  Where is my faith?  My worry makes huge statements about the way I view God.  Notice how all these worries and frustrations are first world worries?  They are the worries of the wealthy.  What about the people who do not have the luxury to worry about things like stocking up on supplies?  They can't even eat every day.  Let's get real.  We're going to be fine.  We have enough macaroni and cheese in this house to eat on for a month.

So how can you pray?  You can pray for us to trust the Lord.  When I stop and pray, I am at perfect peace.  Pray we abide in Him and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.  You can pray specifically for me...that I'd trust Aaron and his leadership over the coming weeks.  I want to take my cues from him.  Ultimately he carries the weight on his shoulders of how to plan and prepare for our family.  I would not want his job.  Pray for wisdom for Aaron.  You could pray that those here on mission trips get out of the country on time.  If the airports shut down, that would stink for a lot of people who need to get back to jobs and families.  

But most importantly would you pray for Haiti?  That things would remain calm and peaceful here?

Because with almost all political unrest, the people who will suffer the most are those that are the most vulnerable and the weakest.  Women like these...

...who could go into labor any day now and have to deliver in a dirty tent, without sterile instruments because the city is shut down and they can't make it to Heartline.

Or people like these guys...

photo credit:  Heidi Saylor 

...who will go to bed with hungry tummies because their mothers cannot work when the city is in a mess.

But then again, maybe none of this will happen.  Maybe life here over the next few weeks will be the normal sort of strange and unpredictable.  The strange and unpredictable we've grown accustomed to the longer we've lived here.  Maybe I'll feel like a total dork for even thinking about these things or forcing you to think about them.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Sigh.  This is Haiti.


Anonymous said...

Two rumors you are passing on: "The US removed Aristide from Haiti seven years ago. He has been exiled, but the majority of people in Haiti still love him."

1. The USA did not "remove" Aristide from Haiti, unless you mean that they provided the plane and he left because he saw his reign was almost over.

2. The majority of people in Haiti do not love Aristide at all. The majority of people who voted for him cheered loudly when he left, and they don't want him back.

Hendrick Family said...

Okay Anonymous.

I'll change "majority" to a lot. There are a lot of people excited about his return. Whether they originally voted for him, I'm not sure. But a lot of people are excited he is coming back.

And the US's role? Simply to stay out of an argument (because I'm not even sure how I feel about this) I'll change the wording on that one as well.


Walking to China said...

I think that Haiti is much more intense than where I live! China is pretty predictable and has a stable economy and government. But that sense of "not knowing" is ever present in our daily lives. It really can make you crazy.
Also, Mr. Anonymous comment- maybe we could call those two things you disagreed with "points of views" rather than "rumours." I'm sure no intentional misleading was intended.

Christy said...

You, your family, friends, and Haiti will be in my prayers.

Jewel said...

I will be praying.

Anonymous said...

What fun to read this Aristide epistle written by a less-than-one-year-in-Haiti expert.

btw: Aristide was removed from Haiti twice, the first time in September 1991 after 8-months of leadership and again in March 2004. Was the US involved with this? Absolutely !!

There are enough reasons to be afraid or scared, ask all those people who had family members disappear or murdered under the regime of Jean Bertrand Aristide

Jeanna said...

We are praying, of course!

Jennifer Bacak said...

That comment was from me, Jenn, not Jeanna. She's been on my computer.

Hendrick Family said...


Are you the same person who commented above? If not, you definitely sound like you are related.

You are being a jerk, and I'm tempted to be a jerk right back to you.

You have managed to miss the entire point of this post. I don't think I could have been more clear that I am no news expert. Most of the people who read our blog have no idea who Aristide is, so if by epistle you mean the five brief, vague sentences I wrote about who he is and why his return may matter, then you are being ridiculous.

The rest of us don't have a PHD in Aristide history like you must. A brief explanation was needed.

It seems like you are accusing me of being pro-Aristide. I'm nothing of the sort. I could care less about politics. I care about the people in the pictures at the bottom of this post, and I was simply trying to be honest about what it is like to live in a country where we never know how to plan and how that feels as a wife and a mother.

So take your angst somewhere else. And may I mention that while your comment sounds accusatory, prideful, and rude it is always easy to be those things when your identity remains hidden. How brave.


Zach said...

I was in the Coast Guard the second time Aristide left/was exiled. I knew a lot about it because I worked in intelligence, and, to be completely honest, I don't think anybody knew what the heck was actually going on in the fusion watch centers either. There were just too many rumors floating around, even in the upper eschalons, to confirm or debunk them all. Who knows what really happened! Anyway, I happened to be leaving Haiti shortly after Baby doc returned and he was certainly a harsh dictator (at least if the rumors were correct) :)and everyone was all excited about the riots, but they fizzled pretty quick and even while at the airport where there was supposedly the worst violence, nobody even paid attention to me walking right through the middle of it to my terminal. Of course I know you are aware of this too, I just thought a pep talk was in order ;). The folks at BHM in Fermathe have been in Haiti for over 50 years and Papa Doc has even visited the campus there. They have never had any serious problems even when things seemed to be at their worst in the country. I understand that having kids amidst all this turmoil is a bit more unnerving than my circumstances, so we'll pray for you and pray that God brings you guys peace. God keep you! John 14:27

Aaron Hendrick said...

Dear Anonymous,

As Heather's husband, I am asking her not to post any more of your comments. You have repeatedly missed the point of this post and appear to be more interested in making a political statement.

That is not our desire or the purpose of this post (or this blog in general).

Please understand that anything else you write will not show up on this blog.

Aaron Hendrick

Bob & Judy said...

Well, we'll pray that the rumors continue to be worse than the riots.

Avey said...

Ugh - I'm so sorry about the Anonymous comments. It makes me sick to my stomach to read the nasty remarks.

Heather - you are amazing. I stumbled across this blog and now it's one of my favorites to read. I feel like you're my dear friend, even though you have no idea who I am. Thank you again for sharing about life in Haiti. Please continue to update us on the political situation & how it affects you living in Haiti. (I'm one of the ones who has no idea who Aristide is). I'll be praying for you, for your family, and for peace for the people in Haiti.

Anonymous said...

Still hoping my hubby comes home from Haiti on Saturday, as planned, but mostly praying for safety and "stability" for your family.

Love you,


Grace said...

praying for you & your family!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I just realized the team leaves TOMORROW, not Saturday! What a crazy idea - try to get to the airport the day thousands of Haitians are greeting Aristide....hmmmmm....


Anonymous said...

Hang in there, and don't let the Anonymous's of this world get you down. Those of us that read your blog faithfully understood exactly the point you were making.

I'll be praying for the safety of you and your family, those precious young women who are due any day, and for Haiti in general.

God sees what you are doing, Heather, and I'm sure He smiles...often.

Cathy T.

Michelle said...

I read this post this morning and I have thought of you today. I am praying tonight for your familys safety. Thank you for sharing your life in Haiti. Thank you for your honesty in each post! Thank you for serving Christ and the country of Haiti!

Elisabeth Ream said...

We just left Haiti this morning and arrived home an hour ago. Our flights were always scheduled to leave this morning, but we were surrounded by groups at the airport leaving Haiti because of the rumors/Aristide arrival. We spent time with many Haitians that were around during Aristide's reign and we asked what they thought about his return. Each and every Haitian (ranging 40-50 years of age) we talked to said that they liked him, that they had "no problem" with him, and that they thought his return was a good thing. This surprised us very much from what we have read from many sources in the past about Aristide in Haiti. Just wanted to say that from our experience your post is an accurate depiction of what is going on in Haiti. And that we are praying for your family, for Haiti, and for all our loved ones there that we already miss so much!


Arvil's Wife said...

While not in your particular situation, I understand how frustrating the unkown can be (especially when children are involved).
I know nothing of Haitian politics, but I am praying that Aristide's return only sparks a one sentence afterthought in the local paper!
I am also praying for peace for you and Aaron both as missionaries and parents.
I want to thank you, as well, for this blog. You have totally changed my view on foreign missions and challenge me every time I read to be less stuck up about my place here in the US.


Sailor and Co said...

Anonymous was a total jerk. I'm sorry you had to see that. It's so easy to hide behind anonymity and not speak boldly when people know who you are. Extra grace required for those people. :)

As far as your post, and the real intention behind it....praying for your family. For Haiti.

I had a dream about Aristide's return. I emailed it to Tara. If you are interested in reading it and praying about what it possibly means, ask her to share it with you. I'm supposing that God might give revelation about it to those serving there physically instead of me :)

much love...& prayers


You can pray for us, too, as we lean on His understanding while we sort through our own call to Haiti..not yet knowing in what capacity He would have our family serve her and her people. Thank you!!!

John & Perla said...

And so it was just that...rumor.


Tomorrow there's supposed to be riots because of fuel prices....

John & Perla said...

Go Aaron! \O/